Time to shine is now for returning rookie Johnson

Aug. 21, 2013

Fifteen practices, two preseason games and one Family Night intra-squad scrimmage.

That’s how much action Green Bay Packers’ seventh-round rookie receiver Charles Johnson had missed prior to returning to the practice field on Wednesday, a result of a medial collateral ligament injury in his left knee that he sustained during the team’s second camp practice on July 27.

Twenty seven days passed in between with Wednesday marking the first time the 6-foot-2 receiver had thrown on pads and a helmet in a competitive team-oriented environment since his senior year at Division II Grand Valley State came to a close in a 55-52 loss to Saginaw Valley State on Nov. 10, 2012.

Since being taken 216th overall in April’s draft, the 24-year-old receiver has been relegated to the sidelines. He’s been healthy enough to show flashes of natural athleticism, but took part in only one offseason practice due to injury before sustaining another just 1˝ days into training camp.

“After I did, I was really upset,” Johnson said. “I was crying and everything like, ‘I’m out again.’ I thought it was going to be worse than what it was.”

“I’ve never experienced that type of thing before. I’ve always been the guy who’s ready to play the game and ready to go out here and get excited but I’m over here sitting and watching people getting dressed and just sitting here not really having no type of feeling.”

Johnson didn’t take part in much beside individual drills on Wednesday, but said he feels strong enough to play Friday against Seattle. Judging by his limited participation, however, it probably won’t be enough to get him back in uniform against the Seahawks.

That leaves Johnson with three practices before next Thursday’s preseason finale against the Kansas City Chiefs to show why the Packers should consider keeping him over a lot of other undrafted rookie receivers who have impressed in camp like Illinois State’s Tyrone Walker and Louisiana Tech’s Myles White.

The final stretch of camp will be key for both Johnson and fellow seventh-round rookie receiver Kevin Dorsey, who returned from a hamstring injury last week but didn’t take part in last Saturday’s 19-7 win over St. Louis.

“I just have to go out there each day and make the opportunities count,” said Johnson, who finished sixth in Grand Valley State history in catches (128), fifth in receiving yards (2,229) and second in touchdowns (31) despite spending only two years at the school.

“I’m obviously behind because I have missed a lot of time and guys have got a head start on me. I’m going to go out there and give it all I got every time I get an opportunity. Hopefully, I can shine and catch somebody’s eye. I’m just going to do what I do and that’s play football, and we’ll see what happens from there.”

With Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, James Jones and probably Jarrett Boykin all locked into spots at this point, it leaves Dorsey and Johnson competing for perhaps one other available spot with a lot of receivers that include special-teamer Jeremy Ross, Walker and White.

“Charles is at a disadvantage. He doesn’t have the timing and the reps down with the quarterbacks as far as throwing him the ball,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “Really, for a young man to go out there in his first live action, you just want to see him play, play fast, play with confidence and try to do the best he can. So, he definitely has a lot of ability. That’s why we drafted him and hopefully he can go.”

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Get Green Bay Packers updates as they happen from our reporting team: (from left) Mike Vandermause, Wes Hodkiewicz and Pete Dougherty.

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